From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
In the 1960s, Southern California was a melting-pot of many strains of musical thought. Rock and Roll music was popular, with instrumental rockers such as Duane Eddy, Link Wray, and Santo and Johnny proving that strong vocal ability was unnecessary to achieve a level of stardom. Los Angeles was a hub of Jazz activity, and the biggest acts typically played there. Unlike much of the US at the time, large numbers of Mexicans lived in this part of California, and their music was no doubt heard by many aspiring musicians of the era. Rock instrumentation, with an aggressive jazz-influenced drummer and some Latin influences equals Surf music. It merely required a few local talents to achieve a level of popularity before a trend was born.
Most Early surf bands were formed in Southern California area, with groups such as the Bel-Airs, the Beach Boys, the Surfaris, Dick Dale and the Del-Tones, the Challengers, Eddie & the and Showmen. Orange County in particular had a strong surf culture, and the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa hosted many surf-styled acts. A typical night's entertainment featured not only Surf music, but cover versions of popular hits of the day.
The popularity of the genre led groups from other areas to try their hand as well. Both the Astronauts (Boulder, Colorado) and The Trashmen (Minneapolis, Minnesota) played surf music and their Billboard hits "Baja" (Astronauts, #94, 1963) and "Surfin Bird" (#4, 1964) showed that the popularity of the genre was spreading widely. The Rivieras from South Bend, Indiana, hit #5 in 1964 with "California Sun".
In 1963, Checker Records released the album "Surfin' With Bo Diddley" (Checker LP-2987) and the track "Surfer's Love Call" as the A-side of a single (Checker 1045) by the rock and roll pioneer Bo Diddley.
The Atlantics, from Sydney, Australia, were not exclusively surf musicians, but made significant contributions to the genre, the most famous example with being their hit "Bombora" (1963). Another Australian surf band who were known outside their own country's surf scene was the Joy Boys, whose hit "Murphy the Surfie" (1963) was later covered by the Surfaris.
European bands around this time generally focused more on the style played by the Shadows. A notable example of European surf instrumental is Spanish band Los Relampagos' rendition of "Misirlou". The Dakotas, who were the British backing band for mersey-beat singer Billy J. Kramer gained some attention as surf musicians with "Cruel Sea" (1963), which was later covered by The Ventures and eventually other instrumental surf bands, including the Challengers and the Revelairs. For decades, "Vibrations" (The Ventures) was used in TV program in the Soviet Union called "International Panorama".
While known as a genre that developed on the West Coast of the United States in the 1960s, a 1990s revival has sparked a resurgence worldwide. Man or Astro-man?, Los Straitjackets, Pollo Del Mar and many others perform on a regular basis. Other groups such as Simon and the Bar Sinisters, the Red Elvises and Southern Culture on the Skids also dabble in this genre.
- "Wild Weekend", The Rebels, 1960
- "Misirlou", Dick Dale, 1962.
- "Walk Don't Run '64", The Ventures, 1964.
- "Pipeline", The Chantays, 1963.
- "Bombora" (single), The Atlantics, 1963.
- "Wipe Out", The Surfaris, 1962.
Surf Instrumental Record Labels:
- Double Crown Records – Bellingham, Washington
- MuSick Records – California
- Rickshaw Records - Southern California
- Golly Gee Records – California
- Deep Eddy Records – Austin, Texas
- Necro-Tone Records – Massachusetts
- Green Cookie Records – Thessaloniki, Greece
- High Noon Records - Columbus, Ohio
- Bombora Creative - Adelaide, Australia